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Underground disposal for nuclear waste recommended

Nuclear waste should be disposed of deep underground, government advisers will recommend later this month.
Chairman of the government-appointed Committee on Radioactive Waste Management (CORWM), Gordon McKerron, said this week that deep geological disposal is the only viable option for dealing with the UK's 500,000m3 of intermediate level nuclear waste.CORWM will recommend that the underground repository be sealed as soon as practicable in order to minimise future risk, McKerron said.'We have considered a shortlist of three waste management options - interim storage of up to 300 years, geological disposal in a repository between 300m and 1,000m deep, and phased geological disposal. This last option would be designed to remain open for up to several hundred years, enabling monitoring and possible retrieval of waste.'Applying a code of inter-generational ethics and the principle that the polluter should pay suggests that the present generation should bear the cost and responsibility for dealing with waste.'To provide a solution that passes cost and responsibility to generations 300 years from now satisfies neither criteria.'The best way of managing costs and minimising risks posed by terrorism, political or social break down, environmental change, or financial catastrophe is to select a secure disposal option and lock nuclear waste away as soon as possible, McKerron added.He said that it would be possible to review plans for deep geological storage developed by waste management company Nirex and scrapped in 1997 in the face of fierce public opposition.But extensive public consultation is needed to develop confidence in the scheme.'The government cannot develop the scheme using the old decide, announce, defend principle. It has to get stakeholders to buy in through consultation and build public trust.Finding a site and developing a design could be a 20-40 year process, McKerron suggested.The repository would remain open until the end of the present decommissioning cycle, and would take wastes from any new build nuclear reactors - for up to 120 years, he added.CORWM is due to publish its final report on 31 July.

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